If my daughter chooses to go into the same profession as me, sales, this is just some of what she might have to deal with:
My sales manager was regularly critical of my performance and told me on several occasions that I was too sensitive… I also was the only woman on a sales team with seven men. We hired five more Account Executives, all men. I asked why we didn’t hire any women and was told that there were no qualified women that applied.
I’m always asked if traveling is hard for me with a family, and if I miss my children when I’m traveling, and who takes care of them… I’ve never heard anyone ask any of my male colleagues these same types of questions who have families. I also know even mentioning my family in the interview process hurts my potential for landing a job with travel.
I was trying to get my point across in a very passionate manner. One of my male colleagues said, ‘Whoa, no need to get so emotional.’ And I said, ‘It’s funny that when you try and prove your point by raising your voice, you’re thought of as dedicated and passionate. But when I raise my voice, I’m emotional.’ Then there were crickets. And this was in front of a female CEO. I think even some women are more confident in their male colleagues. It’s baffling to me.
These are just some of the responses we got when three women sales leaders — Trish Bertuzzi, Lori Richardson, and Kasey Jones — and I invited women in our field to share their stories. We also held a webinar to learn from women about the sexism women face in the industry every day.
I’ve always known that there’s still sexism in our profession, which includes 14.5 million people. But an incident involving a sexist speaker at a huge conference opened my eyes to the fact that it was far worse than I had realized.
There are all sorts of immediate steps we need to take to address this, including acting as allies to women and calling out all forms of sexism when we see it. This can show up in all kinds of different ways. One woman who contributed her story wrote, “I was told several times to dye my hair, to wear heels in the field (in Los Angeles, walking all day), to keep my makeup on point, and I’ve had difficulty with all of that.”
All this needs to stop.
It’s also important to take the long view. No matter how many positive changes we make in any industry, young girls of today will still face some sexism when they enter many professions. I decided I want to empower my daughter with the business skills that I know best. I want her to have a leg up on the competition, so it will be even tougher for sexist people to hold her back.
Inspired by the experience of teaching her how to best sell Girl Scout cookies door-to-door, I put together a children’s book to educate all children in these lessons, titled I Want to Be in Sales When I Grow Up! The protagonist is a young girl. Given that my daughter is the inspiration, I let her choose a charity for all the profits to go to. She went with the World Wildlife Fund. (She wants to be a veterinarian. Still, I told her, every profession involves some degree of selling.)
All of us have some expertise in our fields. And while our kids may not always want to hear our stories about work, I have found that my daughter loves learning how to do business skills herself. And hey, she’s now the top Girl Scout cookie seller in our town, two years running!
I know that I can’t protect her from what’s out there. I can only work to remove the obstacles against women in my field, and try to give my little girl the strength and knowledge to one day overcome the obstacles that remain. I look at her and see a better future.